Omnibus to include election cybersecurity funds

Omnibus to include election cybersecurity funds
© Greg Nash

Congressional leaders are hammering out a massive spending bill that will include money to help secure U.S. voting systems from cyberattacks.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCongress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools Christine Todd Whitman: Trump should step down over Putin press conference GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE (R-N.C.) said the omnibus bill would provide grants for election security during a hearing Wednesday, though he did not go into detail about the funding.

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Sources told The Hill that the omnibus package is expected to include $380 million in election technology grants for states to secure digital systems involved in elections. It is also expected to include $307 million for FBI counter-intelligence efforts against Russian cyberattacks.

The money underscores efforts in Congress to address Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which included attempts to target voting-related digital systems in 21 states. Lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned that Russia will look to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on election security, one day after senators released a summary of recommendations on securing vote systems from cyberattacks.The report, the first product of the committee’s yearlong investigation into Russian interference, calls for the federal government to establish a voluntary grant program for states to boost cybersecurity. 

“It is my understanding that the appropriators have taken care of, in the omnibus bill, an amount of money to be grants and other items — I don’t want to speak for what their language is going to be — that mirrors the research that this committee did,” Burr said Wednesday during the hearing.

The $380 million would be on par with the $396 million state election officials have requested from Congress for cybersecurity. The money represents the remaining funds authorized by the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The Department of Homeland Security is providing vulnerability assessments of election infrastructure and other assistance to states that request it to address the threat.

Niv Elis contributed.